Day After Observations

Notes and thoughts from the Rebels’ 37-10 loss at No. 7 Georgia …

Video here from the coordinators.

Dave Wommack

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgSqgJO7o0Y&w=560&h=315]

Dan Werner

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mhf9bG3N7vw&w=560&h=315]

For Ole Miss, the sudden struggle to run the football is alarming. While the offensive line had been a concern going into this season, the group did improve, and the Rebels were able to get things done in the running game.

That has changed. Ole Miss was held below 100 rushing yards for the second-straight game, and for the last two games has struggled to pass a combined 100 yards, getting 77 in Little Rock and being held to 46 by Georgia.

After Little Rock, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze talked about the physicality of the Arkansas defensive front. Last night it was the physicality of the defensive front, a Georgia defensive front that while coming off its best game — in which it held Florida to less than 100 rushing yards — had a history of being run upon this season.

I would expect more of the same with regard to run struggles at LSU which will be another physical defense.

More likely, what’s happening here is not only the physicality of the opponents but the fact that the Ole Miss offensive line lacks those same gifts. This is not breaking news. It’s the way things are, and the two components most likely to bring about hope and change will be another year in the weight room and recruiting.

In the meantime, the Rebels have a lot on the table for 2012 with a chance for bowl-eligibility. At the beginning of the season I think a lot of folks would have taken five wins plus being competitive in the SEC and run to the bank. The Rebels have achieved that even in a 27-point loss to Georgia. Most of Georgia’s points were the product of big plays against a secondary that was inexperienced to begin with then beaten up with two of its top three corners on the shelf. The end result was not pretty, and as Bill Parcells used to day, ultimately, “You are what your numbers say you are.” I think that was Bill Parcells.

Ole Miss was not expected to win at Georgia. Some may have held out hope for an upset there. While I thought it was possible, I also thought it would have taken too many factors including Georgia being flat and Ole Miss being near-perfect. Neither occurred in that unlikely combination.

I had already begun to focus on Vanderbilt as the Rebels’ next real chance for bowl-eligibility. As I have mentioned here before, nothing will come easily down the stretch. A week ago the Rebels were on the emotional high of having won in Little Rock, of having beaten a good Arkansas team without playing its best game.

Now Ole Miss must regroup from a big loss, and it’s Vanderbilt that’s riding high. The Commodores have also circled this game as a great chance to become bowl-eligible. Vanderbilt, like Ole Miss, is 5-4 following its 40-0 win over Kentucky. Yes, that was Kentucky, which has likely reached mail-it-in-stage, but that was still a road game, and the 40-point whipping shows that Vanderbilt was coached and focused, as I suspect they will be against Ole Miss at Vaught-Hemingway.

Freeze faces the challenge of getting his players up after a big loss. He’s done this before, after a 66-35 loss to Texas. The Rebels were prepared for Tulane and for Alabama the next week.

This is different in the sense that there’s no cupcake seven days later. Ole Miss will have to find the way to run the ball against a Vanderbilt team that has taken over the 10th spot in rushing defense even after a shutout against Kentucky, which rushed for 105 yards in the loss.

The run struggles minimize the Rebels’ best offensive player, Jeff Scott, and in general just makes things harder in the passing game, as Donte Moncrief was held without a catch yesterday for only the second time in his career.

Freeze’s next big challenge will be to his creativity. He needs to find a different way to run the ball amid the current state of affairs.

A couple of bright spots yesterday included the Rebels’ success in run defense, holding a very talented Georgia run game to 3.3 yards per carry, and punter Jim Broadway, who averaged 45.6 yards on eight attempts with two downed inside the 20.

I asked Freeze last night if Vanderbilt would have an emotional edge because of its win streak and its 40-0 win over Kentucky. He immediately referenced what he believes will be an electric atmosphere at Vaught-Hemingway and called on Rebels’ fans to show up in big numbers. With so much still on the line, they should.

There was an electric atmosphere inside VHS for the Texas game, and I suspect there will be something similar for Vanderbilt. If there, it could help the Rebels over the hump and into a bowl game for the first time since 2009.

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.lambert.31 Matt Lambert

    You should have daytime football in Baton Rouge in a couple of weeks PA. With LSU’s performance last night, I can’t see how CBS wouldn’t want to telecast the Ole Miss-LSU affair over the State-Arkansas game. Should find out tomorrow I guess.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jimmyw.barbee Jimmy W Barbee

    I think Ole miss chance to win six (6) now will be with Miss State, Vandy has always had a mental edge over the rebels and LSU has a physical one, so it don’t look too good with these two teams yet to play. never can tell tho sometime the unexpected do happen. Anyway I will be 79 years old next week God willing (dementia and all that stuff that goes along with old F–T as me) and anyway I am still living in the fifties but do remember when the Rebels were national known and a power house type of team. And also being a “white trash”. country farm boy from Tula as the list goes on and on. Wishing all up there in Mississippi a happy day and enjoy it for this the day in which God has made. JB

  • Parrish Alford

    Matt, I’m all about daytime football. If it’s an afternoon kick I may be able to drive half-way back that evening.

  • doubletripper

    parrish i couldn’t agree more about what you said about freeze having to find another way to run the ball. every time i mention it on any of the message boards some folks think i am anti freeze. nothing could be farther from the truth. however i refuse to put my head in the sand and pretend that all is well. we need to do something different in order to move the ball better.

  • http://www.facebook.com/larry.box Larry Box

    PA, you’re right. After the last two seasons, just having a competitive team on the field is great! With that said, though, we really need to wrap up against Vandy and not have to count on beating MSU to become bowl eligible. I can say after watching the Rebs and the Dawgs this weekend, I think Ole Miss was playing with much more effort and heart than MSU.

  • http://www.facebook.com/larry.box Larry Box

    JB, Happy Birthday this week!! You’re doing great. Keep the posts coming!

  • Parrish Alford

    Tripper, I think he’ll try something different. Not sell out to something different. That’s not what he needs to do to a system and players who have been successful this season, but he needs to do something to spark them through a time in which others have seen a great deal of Ole Miss on video and have seen half a season’s worth of tendencies. Larry, I think that MSU game is a toss-up, but it would take a great deal of pressure off the Rebels if they won this week.

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